An incalculable amount of time and effort has been given to the setting up and running of the Yeatman hospital by local people, since the original concept for having a hospital here in Sherborne was raised over 150 years ago. This continues unabated today and Friday 8 July 2016 saw the doors thrown open for a celebratory garden party in honour of the 150 years this wonderful local institution has been serving the good people of Sherborne and the surrounding district. We all have had cause to be very grateful when an incident has meant we have found ourselves to be the beneficiaries of all the effort that has been made on our part. For me it was on a very recent Saturday lunchtime when my husband came back from town with a couple of bags of shopping and having inadvertently left his reading glasses on he managed to misjudge the kerb, stopping his fall with his face, which a friend of mine was encouragingly moved to observe is the way you do these things as you get older, and so we found ourselves waiting for the duty nurse at the Yeatman to patch him up. We had walked there but I noticed on the wall a dispensing machine and for the princely sum of £1 you could buy your way out of the hospital car park. What a wonderful system!
As an example of some of the many fundraising efforts that have happened along the way let me take you back to June 1927 and it is carnival week and all the proceeds will go towards the building of a maternity ward and smaller private wards and offices at the hospital with over £3,000 of the £6,000 needed already raised. All the shops are taking part in a competition to create the best window display. There is a souvenir booklet and programme published by the Sherborne Chamber of Trade on sale, printed by ‘Dorset’s Largest Printers’ J C and A T Sawtell of Sherborne and I have a copy in front of me now. There is a number just inside the cover, my number is 2011, and by scouring the windows of shops in the town it may just be that this number is displayed on an item that will become mine to take home at the end of the week. There are many hundreds of such items donated as prizes and just think of the excitement that will be engendered.
Awarded joint first place in the window display competition was R F Rickard, painters and decorators, and Harden, Trevett and Son Ltd, ironmongers. Second was C Kitzerow and third was R Reeves for The Picture Palace which had working models of windmills at the front. There were lots of highly commendeds and special mentions so the whole thing seems to have been a great success all round. On a serious note there are a few ‘Don’ts for Shoppers’ at the back of the book such as ‘Don’t be mislead into thinking you cannot purchase goods in your own town equally as good as those from elsewhere’. ‘Don’t forget that the tradesmen of Sherborne pay rates and taxes towards the upkeep of the town and therefore need and deserve your support’ and don’t forget that ‘LOCAL FIRMS EMPLOY LOCAL LABOUR – a point worthy of remembrance’.
Before any vehicle could enter the town it would be held up by ‘highwaymen’ who demanded an entry fee and once paid, a ticket displayed in the windscreen of each vehicle would allow free access on any return visits during the week.
My booklet contains the programme of daily events with something exciting to see or take part in happening every day.
Monday evening saw the carnival King and Queen parade around the town with the band playing and with much fun along the way. On Tuesday a grand concert took place in the Digby Assembly Rooms in the Digby Hotel with one of those taking part being Mr Stanley Holloway. I think this is very likely to be the same Stanley Holloway who would go on later to play Eliza Doolittle’s father in the stage and screen version of My Fair Lady. Wednesday afternoon saw the children’s carnival procession. Nearly 200 children in fancy dress with lots of prizes and a free tea for all competitors to finish. This was followed by one of the highlights of a very full week – the Battle of Flowers and procession of flower decorated cars. The procession passed through the town and out to the Castle for the grand finale and prize giving. There were group floats, with local schools and organisations taking part, plus individually owned cars, vans and motorbikes. The boys of Sherborne School were described as making a magnificent contribution to an outstanding day and the event was viewed by thousands of people. Rachel Hassall, archivist at the school, has kindly shared some of the photos of the floats here and one of the participants was a young John Le Mesurier.
Thursday was Alexandra Rose Day, organised by the hospital matron Miss Kearvall with the slogan ‘Buy a Rose’ and with the contributions passed to the Yeatman fund. As an aside I should mention that the hospital has recently installed a display cabinet in the entrance and you can see artefacts, photos and more connected to Miss Kearvall’s time as matron.
Back to 1927 and on the Thursday evening there was community singing in Pageant Gardens with the British Legion band. Friday saw a display of junior organisations and a carnival dance from 8.00 until 2.00 organised by the R.A.O.B. On Saturday there was a motor cycle gymkhana and football match followed by a comic football match and finally a grand tug-of-war with the week’s events drawing to a close with open air dancing in Pageant Gardens to the British Legion band.
In 1927 the National Health Service was over twenty years in the future and treatment at the hospital would have to be paid for in most cases, however the Yeatman Hospital League was there to help. Contained in the booklet are full details of how a family of parents with any number of children under 16 could receive treatment for a weekly fee of 4d. There were 55 branches of the league where such payments could be made. There was no charge for accidents or dressings etc and because of the income to the hospital created by this scheme – over £2,000 a year in 1927 – it was possible to treat the ‘necessitous poor’ as well.
By far the most intriguing object on display, during the recent celebrations, was a 3/4″ thorn from a long ago blackthorn bush that had embedded itself in the ankle, and stayed there for a month, of Harry Farr Yeatman. Upon its removal the surgeon remarked that young Harry must have good blood for surely he would otherwise have lost his leg. Did this significant event compel Harry Farr Yeatman, in later life, to work towards the establishment of the hospital that has been named in his honour?
The magnificent cake ready to be cut to celebrate 150 years of the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne